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Publish Date: 10/4/2006

Conviction doesn't have to be the end of a job search

Dear Kate & Dale: I have a felony conviction from 1989 in California. Six years ago, I moved to the Midwest, and ever since Iíve had difficulty returning to my career in health care. It seems the system would rather keep me on welfare than let me honestly pay my bills. Ė Paul

Dale: Thereís good news. As part of volunteer career counseling, Iíve gotten to observe many ex-cons go about job searches. Some of them lie about their felonies; others donít. Turns out the odds of getting a job are about the same either way. Meanwhile, the odds of getting found out, and fired, are of much higher for the liars. You see the good news there Ė your past might not be as problematic as youíre assuming.

Kate: Still, there are types of organizations where discrimination is going to be nearly total, and that might be where youíve devoted your efforts. I suggest going for a job with the government, nonprofits or small companies. Such organizations will be more open than major corporations. Most county and state career centers have programs for people they categorize as special populations, or some similar term. These organizations are committed to hiring those thwarted by the typical job market. I just looked at the Internet listing for your countyís career center and found several groups that might have labs that need someone like you.

Dale: You also have to face being seen as out of touch with the field, just like those whoíve taken time off for their families or health. Youíll want to find ways to refresh your knowledge with classes, professional associations and volunteer work. Meanwhile, consider ways to turn your past to your favor. Ask yourself where your personal experience intersects with clinical careers. The obvious place is prisons, but also seek out organizations that use prisoners in research, or those that deal with welfare clients. In other words, there are places where your background is an asset and where your unique network of contacts can be turned to your advantage.

Dear Kate & Dale: I recently set out to launch a new career. Iíve had several interviews but havenít received a single follow-up letter. Is this common practice nowadays? I find it hard to believe a prospective employer canít even make the effort to send me a rejection e-mail. Ė Frances

Kate: It wasnít long ago that employers sent letters in response to every application and resume. However, when an employer actually calls you in for an interview, itís common for the employer to let you know the outcome. Still, many donít. I think things have become so impersonal that employers simply forget. Those who donít forget send letters that are usually totally impersonal and often arrive two months late.

Dale: So who cares if you get one or not? If you as a manager send nice, personal notes to those not chosen, what thanks do you get? Those job hunters call and plead for reconsideration, or want to have a discussion about why they didnít get the job. Managers donít have the time, and if they did, human resource departments would scream at the thought of possible lawsuits resulting from comments the manager might make.

Kate: Instead of waiting for rejection, take the initiative to increase the odds of acceptance. Contact the hiring manager and ask where you stand in the hiring decision. Offer to send follow-up information or ideas. The interview isnít the end of the game; itís just halftime. Forget the rejection letter and make sure you learn enough in the interview that theyíll send you an offer letter.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five OíClock Club, a national career-counseling network (www.fiveoclockclub.com). Her newest book is "Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game" (Thomson Delmar Learning). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovatorsí Lab. His latest book is "Better Than Perfect: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Lift the Performance of Those Around Them" (Career Press). Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail dale@dauten.com.

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